Tag Archives: road trip

Tips for the New Traveler: How to Handle Your First Big Trip (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post by Catherine Workman is all about how to have a great time on your very first big trip. You’ll get tips on everything from packing to getting your vehicle ready for the road. If you are a new traveler, this post is a great place to start planning for a successful trip.

Photo via Pixabay

Traveling across the nation or to a new country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Such a trip can offer a chance to be independent and strike out on your own. A big trip can be a bit overwhelming, especially for folks who’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time. Not only is there homesickness to worry about, but it’s also important to try to prevent or plan for any travel issues that might make the trip more difficult. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to plan for your journey and stay safe, calm, and on-budget the entire time. Start making preparations well ahead of time so you can find the best deals on accommodations and activities, and get to know the details of your chosen mode of transportation. For instance, if you’ll be driving, make sure you understand your insurance policy and research the rules of the road along your route, as laws vary by state.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on your journey.

Become Familiar with Your Insurance Policy

If you’re going to be driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to review your insurance policy before you leave, especially if it’s time for renewal. If you’re still on your parents’ plan due to age, that’s probably your best bet cost-wise. If you’re switching to your own policy, note that if you’re younger than 25, your premiums could be high. However, if you’re at least 20 years old and have four years that reflect a good driving record, you might be eligible for a discount. If you already have liability coverage, now is the time to consider expanding that coverage, especially if you’re hitting the road for an indefinite period of time. You want enough insurance to protect yourself financially (repairs, medical bills, etc.) should you get into an accident. You also want coverage that will reimburse you in the event of storm damage or vandalism. When you’re far from home, you’ll be glad to know you’re covered no matter what happens during the trip.

Get to Know Your Vehicle

Taking a road trip can be great fun…until the car breaks down in an unfamiliar city. You can save yourself a lot of grief and hassle if you do some research on your vehicle before you leave. Find out all you can about your vehicle, including gas mileage and interior space. If you have the manual that came with your vehicle, read it cover to cover.

For safety purposes, you should also know how to check your car’s battery, tires, brakes, A/C, and electrical system before you travel, to ensure that nothing needs to be fixed or replaced. If you don’t have the skills to check everything before you go, drop by your mechanic’s shop and get the vehicle a check-up before you hit the road.

It’s especially important to do some homework if you’re going to rent a car, so read up on the pros and cons regarding your options.

Decide On Transportation and Accommodations

The two costliest aspects of most trips are your transportation and accommodations. Fortunately, if you are staying in the US, you are not limited to flying or driving long distances. Don’t count out traveling by rail or bus if you don’t want to drive. Similarly, if you can give yourself a few extra days, you can make the drive part of your adventure. You also have many accommodation options at home and abroad. Instead of a hotel, look for private rental. While these will not always come with the conveniences of a Marriott or Hilton, you’ll have access to a kitchen and plenty of space to relax.

Budget Well

Taking a trip of any kind can become costly, so it’s crucial that you budget and remain on track as closely as possible. Take into account the true cost of the trip, from your meals to your accommodations, and look for discounts online that will help you save money on your expenses. Keep in mind that it’s best not to travel with a lot of cash, but if you do, learn how to keep it safe. Always have an emergency contact in case you lose your wallet or have your purse stolen. 

Pack Like a Pro

No two types of trips require the same attire, gear, or accessories. Make sure that your suitcase is filled with only the items that you will actually need for your excursion. If you are going to the beach, for example, two swimsuits, an extra pair of flip-flops, and plenty of sunscreen are a must.

A mountain hiking vacation will necessitate things like hiking boots, an emergency poncho, a weather-proof backpack, and, most importantly, a compass and paper map so you are prepared if your phone’s GPS goes off-line. No matter where you go, you will need your ID and, if you are traveling out of the country, a passport, which you should apply for at least three months before your departure.

Don’t Be Afraid of Last-Minute Travel

Conventional wisdom says the sooner you book, the better off you’ll be. While you can usually get great deals by booking months ahead of time, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy a last-minute getaway without paying a premium. When you get down to the 72-hour-ahead mark, call your preferred accommodations, airline, or other transportation and ask if they have discounts on open seats. Waiting until a few days before is also a good way to get rock-bottom prices on cruises, especially in the off-season when stateroom availability is plentiful.

Expect the Unexpected

When you’re traveling to a new place for the first time, it can be surprising to see and experience so many differences from home. Keep in mind that each area has its own personality, and you may have to adjust to new cultures, new food and drink, and new languages depending on where you travel to. If you go into it with an open mind, you can ensure a good time and lots of great memories. If you have an issue with stress, panic disorder, or anxiety, bring along comfort items, and consider using meditation to help you relax.

Traveling a long distance for the first time can be liberating and fun, but it can also be stressful, especially if you suffer from anxiety or if you’ve never been away from home for an extended time. Take precautions to ensure your safety is a priority, and plan well in advance so there won’t be any surprises when you’re away from home. A little planning can go a long way!

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in a while. She travels to boost her physical and mental health.

Checklist of Things to Take on the Road

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White Rv on Road

First of all, let me say that nobody needs to get a bunch of fancy stuff before starting life on the road whether in a van, car, motorhome, truck camper, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. There’s nothing wrong with being a minimalist because you’re more comfortable that way or because you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on gear. This list is not meant as a shopping list or list of must-have items. I put this list together to help nomads plan ahead, to help folks think about what equipment might increase comfort for a weekend or a lifetime on the road. Feel free to cross out the items you’ll never use and add in the items I forgot. Make this list your own and use it any way you want or ignore it completely. Think of it as helpful advice, suggestions from a long-time van dweller, not as commandments you are compelled to follow.

Kitchen

*stove   *fuel for stove   *lighter or matches for lighting stove   *water for drinking and washing   *jugs for water   *cooler for perishables   *ice for cooler   *perishable food   *canned goods and other non-perishable food   *herbs and spices   *salt    *pepper   *at least one pan for cooking (I use cast iron skillets)   *at least one pan with lid for cooking grains/boiling potatoes/etc.  *bowl    *plate (although you can typically get away with using just a bowl)   *fork/spoon/spork/knife   *stainless steel cup   *knife for food prep   *cutting board   *water bottle   *can opener   *spatula/turner   *soap for cleanup *dishtowels   *rags   *paper towels

Bathroom

*toilet paper   *wet wipes   *pee jug/bucket   *container for defecation  

Closeup and Selective Focus Photography of Toothbrush With Toothpaste

*plastic garbage bags to line defecation container   *cat litter/peat moss/puppy training pads for defecation system   *hand and body soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap for most any washing need)   *washcloths   *towel   *shower shoes   *shampoo   *conditioner   *dry shampoo   *feminine hygiene products   *toothbrush   *toothpaste   *dental floss   *mouthwash   *razors   *shaving cream   *witch Hazel   *cotton pads or cotton balls   *small shovel (if you’re going to dig a cat hole while camping on public land)

First Aid

Person Holding White Hand Wrap

*self-adhesive bandages   *ace bandage   *large gauze pads   *medical tape   *rubbing alcohol   *hydrogen peroxide   *antibiotic ointment   *cough drops   *decongestant   *cough syrup   *vitamin C supplement   *over-the-counter pain relievers   *tweezers   *instructions for removing a tick   *cotton swabs   *mole skin *aloe vera gel for burn/sunburn relief

Laundry Day

*quarters   *laundry bag   *laundry detergent   *stain remover   *bleach   *fabric softener/dryer sheets

Clothing

*socks   *underwear   *bras   *sunhat   *sturdy shoes   *comfortable shoes to wear at camp   *jeans or other sturdy pants   *long and short sleeve shirts   *nice outfit   *shorts or cool-weather skirt   *swimsuit   *water shoes   *handkerchiefs   *jacket and/or coat   *warm hat   *warm gloves or mittens   *long winter underwear   *scarf   *pajamas   *special clothes for any sports you participate in

For the Rig

*tire gauge   *jack   *tire iron   *jumper cables   *can of Fix-a-Flat   *portable

Brown Spoke Car Wheel in Brown Sand during Daytime

air compressor   *oil   *gas jug   *emergency flairs   *coolant/antifreeze   *brake fluid   *transmission fluid   *roadside assistance coverage   *owner’s manual *Chilton or Haynes manual   *log book

Basic Tools

*hammer   *Phillips-head screwdriver   *flat-head screwdriver   *adjustable wrench   *Allen wrenches   *pliers    *work gloves  

For Your Comfort

Red Lens Sunglasses on Sand Near Sea at Sunset Selective Focus Photography

*sunglasses   *lip balm   *lotion   *sunscreen   *walking stick   *insect repellent   *sleep aid   *ear plugs   *sleep mask   *12 volt fan   *brush   *comb   *hand mirror   *flashlight or headlamp *batteries for flashlight or headlamp   *solar lights   *mattress/camping pad/foam pad/hammock   *sheets   *blankets and/or sleeping bag   *pillow   *curtains   *portable heater   *fuel for portable heater   *reading material   *music (radio/phone/MP3 player)

Miscellaneous

*invertor   *phone charger   *phone   *GPS system   *paper maps   *driver’s license   *proof of insurance   *insurance company’s phone number *vehicle registration   *AAA or Good Sam’s membership card   *roadside assistance phone number   *spare key(s)   *12 volt extension cord   *camera   *travel journal

What important things do you take on the road that I’ve forgotten to include here? Let me know by leaving a comment below. If I think your suggestions have broad appeal, I might just add them to this list!

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-rv-on-road-2580312/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-bristle-brush-clean-298611/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-hand-wrap-1571170/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-spoke-car-wheel-in-brown-sand-during-daytime-53161/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/sunglasses-sunset-summer-sand-46710/.

It’s Been a Week

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It’s been a week since I’ve posted here.

I’ve written a couple of posts by hand in my notebook, but I haven’t sat down at a computer with internet access since I sent out the dispatch from Quartzsite.

It’s been a whirlwind tour. A car was sold. My new friend and I left Quartzsite behind. Camping supplies were bought. We spent a couple of nights at free campgrounds, one I’d been to before (Buckeye Hills Regional Recreation Area) and one that was new to me (Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area). We stopped to visit The Lady of the House; she prepared a wonderfully delicious lunch for us, and as an added bonus, we took showers! We drove late into the night, set up camp in the dark, and woke to fantastic nature. We climbed up on rocks and took photos of each other, then climbed back down again.

I’ve been laughing a lot.

I’d forgotten how great it can be to have a nice, helpful, kind, funny person in the passenger’s seat.

So now we’re in a small town in the Southwest. I have friends here, and my new friend is making some of his own. We’ve been anarchist camping at a small campground with no camphost. I don’t feel too bad about it, as the restrooms with the flush toilets are locked, there are no picnic tables anywhere in the place, and we’re not using any resources. We don’t even put our trash in the dumpster! It’s just a place to go to spend a few hours sleeping.

This is the wood spirit my friend carved. The carving sits on my dash and protects my van.

My friend has been carving wood spirits from cottonwood. It’s his new money-making venture. As soon as he makes one, it sells.

I’ve been scheduling readings of my book. I’ll do two next week. It’s exciting. After the woman at the bookstore said I could do a reading at her shop, I felt as if the Universe would give me anything I wanted.

Today I’m tired. I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night, but I’ll be ok.

I’m currently working at the computer lab in the town’s senior center. It’s really hot in here, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I wanted to get a post out today so everyone knows I am alive and kicking and doing well. I’ll write longer posts soon, but I plan to post every other day starting in February. I have more books to write, and I need more time. Blogging every other day should give me time to work on other projects.

Life is good. I am blessed.

My friend took this photo of me at Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area in Arizona.

Healing Touch

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I was on a road trip with my host family, traveling from the Midwest to the Deep South.

The Man and the Lady of the House were taking turns driving. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I was relegated to the back seat, stuck in the middle between The Boy in his booster seat to my right and the surly teenage brother of the Man of the House on my left. For over 850 miles, my feet perched on the hump in the middle of the floor, keeping my knees bent and closer to my chin than comfortable.

When we stopped at a motel for the night, I could barely walk. My knee hurt. My knee hurt badly. My knee hurt terribly. My knee hurt when I flexed it. My knee hurt when I walked.

Up to that point in my life, hurt had only happened because of something I had done. I’d hurt my back in ridiculous ways: sneezing, reaching for a towel. I’d hurt my ankles by twisting them while walking. But I’d never hurt myself by sitting still.

I hobbled into the motel room and got some sleep. My knee didn’t hurt when I kept it still; it only hurt when I tried to use it. Of course, my instinct told me not to move it if moving it hurt. I didn’t realize my best bet was to keep moving it until I worked out the kinks.

The next morning I hobbled back out to the car and folded myself again into the middle seat. I guess the surly teenage brother got the window seat because he was taller, with longer legs. As a shortie, I’ve always taken the seat with the least leg room, so it didn’t occur to me to ask him to switch places or even insist upon it. I was his elder, after all, and I was in pain, but the middle seemed to be my destiny, so I went with it.

By the time we arrived at our final destination, I was in A LOT OF PAIN. I hobbled into the house. I lay down on a bed and told the Lady of the House how much it hurt. She looked at me with sympathy. I asked her to put some healing touch on me.

Healing touch was something I’d learned from a midwife at an infoshop. In the workshop, she taught us to mostly hover our hands over the body of the person we wanted to heal. When we felt a change in energy, we were to keep our hands above that area and concentrate on smoothing out any roughness we found in the energy. If the healer and the person with the pain both felt comfortable, the healer could do some actual light physical touch.

My mistake came from forgetting that the Lady of the House had not attended the midwife-led healing touch workshop. My mistake came from forgetting that the Lady of the House had not attended any healing touch workshop ever. My mistake came from failing to define terms or otherwise using my words to explain what I wanted the Lady to do.

As far as I know, the Lady of the House has never been trained as a chiropractor. I’ve never been treated by a chiropractor, so my ideas of what they do is shrouded in myth and legend. But in my mind, what the Lady did next was closer to a chiropractic manipulation than a gentle laying of hands.

I was lying on my back with my knee bent, leg raised, with my foot and buttocks lifted off the bed. The Lady of the House grabbed my foot and in one swift motion, straightened my leg. She didn’t stop there. Oh, no, she didn’t. She hyperextended my knee, not drastically, but enough to make me yell in pain. That shit hurt!

However, as I looked at her in disbelief and suspicion, I started moving my knee. It didn’t hurt. She had healed me.

She probably should have enrolled in chiropractic school as soon as she returned home. She seemed to be a natural.

A Time

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Were you ever really excited about a road trip in the preparation phase, only to find the actual time on the road left a lot to be desired? Maybe your traveling companion(s) annoyed you. Maybe the food you ate left you feeling sick. Maybe the roadside attractions were boring and not worth the money. Maybe you couldn’t wait for the entire “adventure” to end.

As an adult, I always had high expectations for road trips. I wanted my travels with friends to be so much better than the boring trips full of bickering I was forced to go on with my family when I was a kid. (Dad often got lost, then tried to pass it off as taking the scenic route.) As an adult, I wanted my road trips to be full of singing along to the radio and stops for ice cream. Other than “Take It Easy” with Mr. Carolina, I don’t recall much singing during road trips as an adult.

I remember a journey to a women’s gathering when I was in my late 20s. I was riding with two other women, and only the owner of the car knew how to drive. I thought the other non-driver and I would take turns napping so someone would always be awake to keep the driver company, but after the first couple of high excitement hours on the road, the other non-driver passed out and was pretty much comatose for the rest of the trip. The only time I remember her awake was when we stopped at a diner for breakfast, and an old man in the parking lot insisted on telling us a joke about a “polecat.” We couldn’t decide if he were actually trying to be funny or if he were trying to offend us.

We got lost in a large city in the wee hours of the night, and a man approached the car while we were stopped at a red light. He didn’t seem to want to give us directions. The driver and I were terrified, but the other non-driver—of course—slept through it all.

The trip took hours and hours and hours longer than it should have, and once we were close to our destination, the driver nearly fell asleep at the wheel, then got caught in a speed trap to the tune of a $300 ticket. The old man cop then asked the driver if the pressed leaf in glass hanging from her rearview mirror were marijuana.

When we finally arrived on women’s land, I was exhausted and overly emotional. I cried when I had to cross a rain-swollen creek to get to the main gathering spot. I do not remember singing at any point on the trip.

Now that I live in a van, road trips aren’t the big deal they once were. I usually travel alone, and time on the road is a means to an end, the way I get from point A to point B. Sometimes I eat ice cream, and I always sing at the top of my lungs, at least for a little while.

In one of her books (which I must no longer own, since I couldn’t find the exact quote), SARK writes about managing expectations about parties, but the same could be said about road trips. SARK says we often go into parties (and road trips) feeling pressure to have a good time. If we don’t have a good time at a party (or on a road trip), we feel disappointed, maybe even as if we have failed somehow. SARK suggests that instead of pressuring ourselves to have a good time, at a party (or on a road trip), we simply expect to have a time. Expecting only to have a time removes the pressure we may feel if we think we are obligated to have fun. Expecting only to have a time allows us to feel whatever we are authentically feeling, whether that is happiness, irritation, joy, exhaustion, boredom, sadness, elation, or some other emotion.

So if you are traveling this vacation season—whether alone, with your children, with strangers, with your parents or your partner or your friends—I wish you a time. And I hope there is singing.